The Curious Case of Taylor Alison Swift

I’ve been a fan of Taylor Swift’s since September 13th, 2009. Most people would lie to you and say “I’ve been a fan since the very beginning,” but not me. This was a very specific date when something very significant happened. Less than a year after America had elected its first black President and Taylor released her second studio album, Fearless, she was nominated, and won, Best Female Video for her song You Belong With Me at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.

That evening, two notable occurrences took place. First, a drunk and obnoxious Kanye West hopped up on the stage, insisting that Beyoncé Knowles–then nominated for the chart-topping Single Ladies —had one of the best music videos of all time. Later in the evening, upon accepting her award for Video of the Year, Beyoncé offered Taylor Swift the microphone to finish her acceptance speech from earlier.

This evening soured many people on Kanye West, made many others aware of Taylor Swift, and served as a moment of mutual respect in a music industry that had crossed all racial divides. It was a proud moment in Obama’s America; a moment that nobody needed Obama for. There were no politics. Only people.

For almost ten years after that moment, Taylor Swift went from being the darling of the country music scene to one of the most successful pop acts ever, and did so while remaining almost entirely apolitical. She recognized that alienating half her audience may not be the best path forward for a pop superstar.

She’d adopted this persona as a heartsick fairy tale princess who only wanted to bake cupcakes, give surprise gifts to her fans, hang out with her cats, and find Prince Charming somewhere down the line.

So what happened?

Related imageTaylor’s career was deeply invested in Big Machine Records, the music label she lifted off the ground, and vice versa. She had complete control and the money was good. She had made a name for herself, brought up new country artists, and cultivated a fan base (or Stan-base?) of Swifties the world over.

In 2016, three more monumental occurrences transpired. First, Taylor Swift had a very messy and public spat with Kim Kardashian and (once again) Kanye West over some of the language about her used in one of West’s tracks. Second, Taylor postponed her 7th and final album to be released through the Big Machine Records label due to the stress and anger she was receiving from non-Swifties. And finally, Hillary Clinton, with the full force of everyone in the entertainment industry behind her (sans Taylor Swift), lost the Presidential Election to Donald Trump.

With the release of her 7th album, Reputation, and subsequent tour, Taylor was finished with her label, and became one of the most valuable musical free agents in history. She had been through the eye of the storm, risked losing her fans, generated a lot of frustration due to her silence in the 2016 election, and had a successful stadium tour to promote her album.

And that brings us to today. After being acquired by Universal Music Group, starting work on her 8th studio album, and pushing 30, Taylor Swift decided it was time to show people who she really is in the pages of Elle magazine. Her self-written article titled 30 Things I Learned Before Turning 30, reads like a strange fiction concocted by someone who isn’t quite certain of her own real world identity.

Image result for taylor swiftShe explains her decision to cut off commenting from Instagram and other social accounts due to caustic responses from the Internet’s finest.

It continues in awkward fashion, as she analyzes and critiques her own changing body like a teenager noticing them for the first time. And while turning 30 may be a milestone in her own life, she bizarrely asserts that strange notions like the idea that her hair has suddenly become straight after 29 years of being curly, and that men could never possibly understand the horrors of aging.

She reacts in a somewhat confusing manner to the May 22, 2017 Ariana Grande concert suicide bombing. She claims that she constantly fears for not only her fans’ safety, but hers as well. In a thought experiment that would lead any rational reader to conclude “this is when I started carrying mace/a taser/a knife/a gun” she reveals that she now carries first aid gauze for patching knife and bullet wounds, seeming to imply a complete lack of either honesty or awareness of actual physical danger.

She vows never to let outside opinions and politics impact her own, which then begs the question, why all of this? And why now?

She casually blames the entire year two-thousand sixteen for her desire to learn how to mix her own cocktails; a woman in her late twenties. Furthering a narrative that she is a long-time home cook, she assures readers that she loves cooking several recipes including an appalling “only ground beef” meatball dish, and other entirely basic concoctions courtesy of solely celebrity chefs. Less disturbing is her celebration of acquiring a game-changing “garlic crusher” (an item that doesn’t exist).

Perhaps even more egregious than the whole cooking debacle she announces that she has learned to always believe the “victim” of sexual assault due to her own experience as a victim. Not to belittle Taylor’s legal butt-grab battle, but comparing her experience to those who have experienced actual sexual assault seems to cheapen it a bit.

Taylor then proclaims that now, at age 29, she is finally ready to get extremely political with her hundreds of millions of followers…a decision I’m certain will not go over swimmingly.

The remainder of her learned experiences are often somewhat sad. She regrets relationships, fake friends, trusting the wrong people, and not going with her gut more often. Surely, all of these sound fairly commonplace in American life.

What this article communicates with me is that while Taylor Swift has spent her career being a consistently aspirational figure, she has spent very little time figuring out what it means to be truly authentic.

Image result for taylor swift

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Step Up 3D

In the sublimely cultural and highly kinetic universe of John Chu’s Step Up 3D, people like dancing. As in, they really, really love it. It’s set in a world where it seems that busting a move and winning break dance battles is practically the most important thing to every human being on the planet, living or dead. It’s a lifestyle, one where a single toe out of line can discredit your respek ‘n’ shit and get your head chopped off and popped on a stake for all to gawk and laugh at as they drink your inadequate and incompetent blood. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little.

This obsession is true for our main characters, mainly young and athletic street dancers whose lives revolve one hundred and ten per cent around dancing. They live it, they breathe it, they digest it, they fart it, they everything it, and it always comes first for them. While their passion is fairly admirable, it’s also a bit laughable. To hear characters taking these things so outrageously seriously is just stupid and unintentionally comical, leading to the film shooting itself in its exceedingly happy foot.

We follow two adolescent siblings, Moose (Adam Sevani) and Camille Cage (Alyson Stoner) who have just started attending New York University. Moose has promised his mother that he would never pursue his love for dance again, but after less than two minutes of screen time, he ends up in a break dance battle. That’s right, this film hasn’t heard of the word “pacing.”

He respectfully wins and attracts the attention of Luke Katcher (Rick Malambri), an aspiring filmmaker and dancer, who introduces Moose to his dance crew, called Pirates. Arrrr, matey, they can twirl and do somersaults and do all sorts of freaky stuff. Moose joins the crew as they prepare for an upcoming dance competition, the World Jam contest, where they will be competing against their rivals, the House of Samurai dance crew. Pirates versus Samurais, eh? That sounds a lot more entertaining than it actually is.

For a lot of the movie we’re watching our protagonists train and practice for this prestigious competition, all of which is quite fun. The choreography within these sequences is spectacular, oozing with creativity, aided visually by those 3D glasses you should be wearing. Most of it is typical street dancing, but a scene where Moose struts his stuff with Camille to a remix of Fred Astaire’s “I Won’t Dance” stands out from the crowd.

Dance is a beautiful art form and it’s showcased very well here, but as much as it tries with all its strength to drag the film up from the depths of mediocrity, truthfully, nothing can. When the dancers stop moving their bodies, we have to deal with boring, melodramatic scenes with characters, ugh, talking.

The script by Amy Andelson and Emily Meyer is frustratingly cheesy, bursting with annoying exposition at the start and jam-packed with stupid cliches. With lines like “You wanna get to him, you gotta go through us” and “With a little bit of training, this kid could be the spark that we need to get everyone together and win the hundred grand from the World Jam and pay back what we owe,” I can’t say that they’ve put any effort into this whatsoever.

This isn’t helped by the wooden acting from almost all of the cast, particularly Malambri. To be fair, many of the performers are professional dancers, not actors, so we’re not expecting much, but that doesn’t get them off the hook. The only good performance is from Sevani as Moose, our exuberant and passionate main character, yet even he’s shaky at certain points in the film.

I also can’t do this review without mentioning Martin and Facundo Lombard as The Santiago Twins, two of the most annoying on-screen siblings since Mudflap and Skids from Transformers 2. I spent much of Step Up 3D imagining I was bashing their pathetically unfunny skulls in with a baseball bat.

Many of the characters simply feel one dimensional, with significantly few of them having a noteworthy presence. Side characters will only be remembered as backing dancers and nothing more, as they lack distinct personalities.

What the film does have though is a cracking soundtrack, filled with hip-hop and electro-funk which ramp up each individual dance scene. From Flo Rida’s “Club Can’t Handle Me” to Chromeo’s “Fancy Footwork,” it really is great and sets the energetic mood.

I want to say that the film’s heart is in the right place, but when our main character is told that dancing is more important than school, I have to say that the movie’s morals are a tad questionable. The film is meant to show the emotional power of dancing, but this is nothing short of generic and it seems forced at times.

I would recommend Step Up 3D for fans of dancing, but thinking about this, they would still have to sit through the tedious scenes where the art is not being displayed. The dance sequences may be fascinating, but they aren’t enough to compensate for the god awful script, the bland acting and the wafer-thin plot. Actually, hold on, just go on YouTube and search for clips of the best dancers on Britain’s Got Talent. That should suffice.

Five outta ten

Watson